95 Style Theses

Ok, so perhaps it’s not all quite so dramatic as the historical image of paper being defiantly nailed to a church door, but it does seem there is quite a bit shaking down in the style typing world at the moment, and that a splintering of factions is imminent. Blog followers may recall that I had a bit of a meltdown in my August Sew Your Kibbe recap post, wherein I had a bit of an existential crisis over certain posts within the Kibbe community criticizing the way certain other community members are portraying his work. It seems that I wasn’t the only one who had a bit of a reaction to this somewhat pervasive sentiment, as one of my favorite YouTubers, Merriam Style, is addressing this same topic in her most recent video:

She goes into more depth with her blog post, but, essentially, she is divorcing herself from Kibbe’s naming conventions in an attempt to focus more on the lines of the body and less on the preconceived personality associations that people tend to place with body type names like “Romantic” and “Gamine.” She is also moving away from using terms like “yin and yang” or “masculine and feminine” for the same reason. Granted, since she offers content and services for sale, her motives are slightly different than mine in addressing this topic, but I don’t think that makes her any less sincere in her efforts.

Why is this important? Well, on a grander scale, I think it is an excellent example of how online communities fragment, and can really be an excellent parallel to so many historical examples of similar events that have shaped the world. Honestly, if we really wanted to get into it, this could be a fascinating study in the way society behaves at large, and why this often leads to so much divisiveness between groups. I don’t know that I really want to fall down that rabbit hole at the moment, but, I think the basis is there, if you really wanted to look at it.*

On a bit less sweeping of a note, I think this is an interesting look at how evolution and change happens. Clearly, Merriam is moving forward with her own system of styling, which is heavily based on the written works of Kibbe’s Metamorphosis. One thing I really like about her video is how she goes through the lineage of style systems – clearly, Kibbe’s work has roots in systems that historically preceded his own, and I think it is natural that this would evolve and change over time. Of course, there are the die-hard Kibbe adherents who will presumably be incredibly offended at the changes Merriam is going to implement, though I also think that it’s a bit hard to reconcile the sentiment of “get off my lawn” with displeasure over someone actually complying with the request.

On a more personal level, I think it really helps me clarify what I’ve been feeling this past month, and sort of help me think about what I want to do with the Kibbe related content on my blog moving forward. After my mini-meltdown, I did what any neurotic obsessive-compulsive nerd would do – I did some research. Up to this point I’d been completely avoiding the Facebook Kibbe groups, partially because I’m not the largest fan of Facebook, and partially because I think selling my soul might be an easier agreement than what I had to go through to join the Facebook forums. But, my desire to understand exactly how we’ve all got it so wrong had to be satiated, and I felt the only way to accomplish this was to go to the source.

I can’t really say I’ve gotten everything I wanted to get out of the forums yet, and while I’d like to say it’s just because there is so much material to go through (there is), honestly, it’s mostly because I’m a bit afraid to look at it. At this point I feel a bit like an archaeologist wading through finds at a dig site where half of the artifacts might be cursed and the other half are pricelessly valuable… Ok, so, maybe it’s not quite that bad, but the instructions upon entry do make you feel like you have to handle everything with kid gloves, and paranoid that you are going to knock some precious vase off a very tall pedestal. It’s not exactly the most inviting environment… though I have to say the sentiment of the community is starkly contrasted by the writing of David Kibbe himself, which is overwhelmingly positive, encouraging, and inviting. So maybe if I just stick to looking at the content directly from David it won’t be so bad?

Although I feel like I still have a lot to examine, I can see why those in the Facebook group feel that everyone who exists outside of the group are approaching the whole thing backwards. Even from the limited study I’ve done, the way Kibbe describes his approach in his modern media is really more holistic than the segmented way that the concepts of his style system are described in his book. Does this stem from an evolution and refinement of Kibbe’s own methods? A heavy-handed editor who was overly interested in sales back in the day? Some combination of both of these things? It’s hard to say, but I feel I can at least come to terms with the root of the frustrations from those who have been actively involved with Kibbe’s social media outlets over the past several years.

So where does that leave everyone else? Well, since I spent a pretty penny in acquiring Metamorphosis and reading the entire book, I can also honestly say that I don’t think those who are discussing his system on social media are doing a bad job. In fact, I think they are all incredibly faithful to the source material, if you consider the source material to be the book. Herein lies, I think, the crux of the issue. The real difference is not that most people what to use Kibbe’s methodology as a get rich quick sort of scheme (although I’m sure it does apply to some), but more that there is a fundamental ideological difference between those who think the foundation of the system is the book from the 1980s and those who think the foundation is David Kibbe himself.

This is the sort of deeply divisive core belief that I think may be irreconcilable within the Kibbe community moving forward, and is already fracturing adherents into clearly defined camps; one quite obviously being the direct followers of Kibbe’s more recent writings with an emphasis on the more holistic approach to bringing about your Metamorphosis, and the other being more focused on the purely physical attributes of the body in providing guidelines in how to dress. One one hand, the Image ID is being used as a way to express the deep inner desires of your core through a personal style, and on the other you are really getting a bunch of guidelines that can be used to frame a personal style in a bit more of a prescriptive and analytical process.

So, where does that leave this blog? Well, at the end of the day, this is (or at least aspires to be) a blog about sewing, not a blog about style systems. I’ve gone quite in depth with the Kibbe system as it pertains to the original text because I found it helpful. And even though Kibbe himself no longer uses many of these characterizations or techniques, in a historical sense, this information is still presented accurately in that it has been transcribed faithfully from the source material it references (the book). Similarly, my own interpretations of how the text of the novel translates to modern day sewing patterns has always been presented as my own opinion and interpretation of the system and of the original text. In that vein, it likely makes more sense for me to focus on the information that will parallel Merriam’s re-named style system, as the focus on the physicality of the lines and shapes of garments is more in line with the how I’ve been interpreting the system up to this point. I think this approach is more consistent with creating capsule wardrobes and sustainability practices that have been hot topics in the sewing sphere over the past several years as well, and will likely be more palatable to many sewists, especially those who really resented the conflagration of personal style with the internal essences that were tangentially associated with the Image IDs.

On the other hand, sewing also gives us a unique chance to follow Kibbe’s more transformative approach because we really can turn our wildest fashion fantasies into reality. The idea of transforming yourself with your style seems a lot more attainable when you know that you won’t have to fight off the depression of searching for things in stores only to find there are severe issues with fabrication, fit, or the price tag. It should be easier to dress up everyday styles with unique pieces when you can make something totally unique instead of searching for it on the internet. Kibbe’s approach is certainly more focused on creating full wardrobe looks – head to toe ensembles that encompass everything from hair to shoes and accessories. This approach might be preferred by someone who likes to have a lot of wardrobe options, and really doesn’t like to worry about one sewing project coordinating with another – it’s about creating looks that express your inner style, not a wardrobe that can mix and match to generate different looks.

So, in this weird way, I think that as a sewing blog, maybe I can encompass both factions of this Kibbe divide, though I do think people will likely settle on one side or another. Personally, while I love the idea of transforming myself in to the movie star of my own life, at this point I’d settle for convincingly hiding the fact that I’m completely exhausted all of the time and that it’s a struggle to get dressed in the morning, let alone getting dressed stylishly. So I think, for now, I will probably settle for the more prescriptive, analytical approach. Am I selling myself short? Dwelling in my own comforting pool of knowledge? Refusing to move forward with the changing times? Betraying the person who inspired all of this in the first place? Perhaps. But I think these are all things I will continue to grapple with as time goes on, so perhaps my perspectives will change as I dive more into the literature that exists on this topic. Kibbe often refers to this process as a journey, and in that sense, this next step for me is going to be one of practical implementation as opposed to intellectual transformation. I do plan to continue to review and study the works of Kibbe, but I’m also not going to discount the offerings of the various YouTube and social media channels that exist. If I consider their work to be a separate entity than David Kibbe himself, then I think there is still much that is helpful and can be learned from the interpretations of others. Probably this is not the clear break that my historical analogy would have you believe, but time will tell when determining how deep the division really runs.

*In case you do really want to look at it, I think this crash course video might be helpful for providing framework. Also, I feel I should possibly offer something of an apology for the heavy historical analogies peppered throughout this post, but, well, I’m on something of a historical kick since I realized YouTube can help me augment my piss-poor high school education in this realm. That, and I think the comparison is incredibly apt, if somewhat flippant.

36 thoughts on “95 Style Theses

  1. Thanks for making the effort, because I know I wouldn’t have the patience to go through the Facebook groups.
    I am specifically interested in the style lines of the garments from a sewing perspective. I have found it hugely helpful to have your view of what each type looks like in today’s clothing. I have the book but find the 80s fashions quite off putting so your posts help me see what I could sew from Burda to work for my body.
    I don’t feel ones body shape indicates anything about personality/values etc, it has too many echoes for me in the Victorian approach that you could tell a criminal by the shape of their head or whatever.
    Which type would the Simplicity 2603 Cardiwrap pattern work for? I made lots and eventually gave them all away because all that draping, and a short back just wasn’t working for me.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. My friend likes to have the cardigan with the long tails and wear it with one tail thrown over the shoulder. She’s slim and shorter than me, no idea what Kibbe type she’d be as I’ve concentrated on what works for me! I sew things for her occasionally and they are not things I would wear myself but they do look good on her.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, yes, good for you for trying to get comfortable with all things Kibbe. But my response is – why bother – there are dozens of other style categorisations out there. You’ve mentioned some of them previously. There are more here, and many others :
    The disagreements within Kibbe-osphere are just a small section of what is going on in the style category world. The important issue is whether your clothes make you feel good and feel ’you’. Stay with a specific style system for only as long as it helps you make good pattern choices, and move on to another when it no longer does. A pity to try to force yourself to fit into a system which does not work for you. There are better ways of using your energy. Develop your own style phrase as a reminder of what is right for you. One day you get to the happy point where you have your own rules and make your own judgements 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is good advice. I think the source of my angst is that the Kibbe system is generally working for me, or at least it was until I felt like I was being told that I was doing it wrong. As with most things – internet drama ruins the fun for everyone I guess.


  3. I always enjoy your posts, Doctor T. I read this one as I was just waking up this morning and I had a reaction. Apologies if this isn’t particularly coherent.

    I enjoyed your Kibbe series largely because it gave some clarity to observations I have made about my style over the years, and most particularly about observations I had made about things that suited the particular lines of my body. In the context of the Kibbe system it made sense that I had gravitated to more classic, trim lines. On the other hand, I’ve always felt that style and colour systems are only useful to a point. My style evolution through my life to a forty-something woman has of course been shaped by the styles I liked on my mother and grandmother when I was little; the type of job I have (in a sphere that is still male dominated); my past as an athlete; the comfort I feel with presenting myself to the world relatively unadorned. Someone else with entirely the same physical characteristics but a different personality and history would undoubtedly dress herself and make herself up entirely differently. My style is not much guided by style or colour systems, as a result. In the final analysis, it is a product of personal reflection and experience. I wear colours that no style or colour-typing system would ever recommend, and I avoid makeup and hair colour because they simply don’t fit who I have learned that I am. It’s nice from time to time to play with the idea of improvements, a grand makeover, or to be comforted by the idea that we are focusing in on things that will prevent us from being wasteful in our sewing or “making mistakes.” I love the idea of being sustainable and this is part of my practice, but so is play (and as a result, so are mistakes, which almost always can be corrected: a recent mistake became a gift to my mother, who loved the end result). I suppose what I am saying is that I’m on the same page with Lisanne’s last few sentences. I don’t think you’ve provided anything misleading to any blog readers. You have informed and we can take what is useful to us from the information and leave the rest. This is meant to be fun. Being and becoming are fabulous adventures.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m… just trying… to put together a capsule sewing wardrobe…?

    Sorry… I guess it’s a good thing that these things are being called out – lack of diversity and inclusion, tagging types with less-than-desirable names. In my case, the over 50 crowd would be my stand.

    Your opinions and approach to the Kibbe and other styles are interesting, and I’ll definitely follow along to see how your approach evolves! But I still enjoy your pattern reviews.

    THANKS for the history video! Think I’ll watch a few of those, my history knowledge is seriously lacking.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I think it’s really just that I found something that I enjoyed and wanted to play with until it made sense to me, but now it feels like there is so much tension that I’m not sure how to deal with it? I still appreciate the ideas, I’m just not sure if the level of joy is the same since I feel like all of my sources of information are now yelling at me and telling me I’m wrong. Possibly really points to the good and the bad of having interactive internet communities – things change in ways you can’t control or predict. It’s not like a book where you can interact with a static thing and move forward from it with a self-centered viewpoint. It’s exciting in its way, but also disheartening a bit to feel like you’ve been told that you are “enjoying a thing wrong.”

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Absolutely DO NOT listen to people who tell you you’re enjoying something wrong. If you are losing interest, that’s different. But if you want to explore it further, you won’t regret it. This is YOUR blog! I made the remark about just looking for particular patterns, just because that’s where I’m at and is no reflection on what you post. I’ve learned a lot reading your investigations! I had no idea there were these sides to sewing, and I feel for knowledgeable for having read it.

        If there is one thing my day job has taught me, it’s that you really need to follow your own curiosity – that is what sets you apart from all the others. That’s what will enrich you as a person, help you stand out, and you’d be surprised how many people out there enjoy looking or reading things but don’t post.

        Liked by 3 people

      3. No, absolutely nothing wrong, but it did make me realize I went on a bit of a deep dive at 1 am as I’ve been sort of internalizing my thoughts over the past few weeks watching this all unfold…


  5. “Absolutely DO NOT listen to people who tell you you’re enjoying something wrong.”
    I once read a book which told me I was accepting myself wrong – well, I didn’t read further than that 😀

    Some of the Kibbe commenters are searching for the ‘absolute truth’ of style categories, and we are all so different and styles are so multi-dimensional that just isn’t possible.
    And, as Ingrid also said, using labels like ‘wrong’ starts us on the slippery slope into saying some styles are more acceptable than others. . .
    Of course, go ahead and have fun with the categories, and we’ll enjoy reading what you have to say. But only as long as you feel your explorations are enriching you. I have a short list of style advisors who make me feel battered and ‘lesser’, and I’m learning to avoid them !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I think my main source of conflict is that I find Kibbe and his works to be, in and of themselves, helpful and uplifting. It’s just the whole community that has sprung up around it that I find troubling. It makes me wonder where the boundaries exist between ownership of concepts and intellectual property and how much leeway I as an individual have with interacting in this space. I enjoy blogging about this, but I find myself wondering if I’m half a step away from a cease and desist letter…


  6. I’m so sorry it’s stopped being as much fun for you as it was before! I guess I never thought of the Kibbe Style IDs as reflecting anything about personality – just a useful set of guidelines about what might look good on a particular body – but I can see where that interpretation comes from. You’ve always been absolutely scrupulous about giving credit and explaining where you’re coming from, and I don’t think you have anything at all to beat yourself up about here. Take care of yourself.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I have really have loved your Kibbe article and hope they continue. They actually got me to look back at a system i’d read years ago and see how it works for today and why i totally hatted the stiff dolman-sleeved peasant blouse I sewed in high school and ended up turning into a pillowcase…LOL 😉 Remember, no one owns ideas! Whole wars have been fought over freedom of thought and conscience. People can only copyright their written interpretation of ideas. Kibbe interpreted and built on the previous ideas of others and you are free to do the same or we’d all be singing in a one note choir. You are not putting your name on his work and saying that it is yours. I remember a particular blogger used to always be hating on Dressing Your Truth because it was built on earlier work by others that had become dated and out of print and putting her own modern interpretation which has proven to be very popular. Frankly, her categories are based on the Four Humors of Hypocratic medicine. One of my son’s keeps telling me to watch a you-tube video called “Everything’s a Remix” or as Solomon said a few thousand year’s ago ”there is nothing new under the sun’.
    Systems that combine style lines with personality always end up giving always end up confusing me because I have many sides to my personality I’d never totally fit into the category that my bodylines fit. It might work for some people but not me. I found it interesting reading Kibbe’s blog posts on his site about fantasizing going to a gala dressed in some fantastic outfit and then translating that into something you might wear during the week but while i’d love to be on living a movie star like you i’d need something a bit more pragmatic like I look much better in soft flowing lines rather than hiding in layers.
    Anyway, divisiveness can really suck the fun out of things but Kibbe’s own writing seems to encourage exploring your own uniqueness and so I see absolutely nothing wrong with your own explorations. It’s certainly been helpful to me to see modern patterns showing how his system can be useful for sewing and for today. By the way, you have an excellent eye and talent for interpreting his written language. I really appreciate that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww, thank you! This is really helpful – I feel like I should check out the Everything’s a Remix video too! If nothing else I do think that this whole series has really helped me train my eye – I can definitely see things that “will work,” “won’t work,” and “need help to work” much easier now. And even if that’s what I’m left with, I think that’s still a step forward, which is what it’s all about.


  8. Keep doing what you are doing. I find it enormously helpful in choosing up to date clothing styles. I don’t bother with other blogs because your content is so complete. Love your work and thankyou.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Always love your posts. Frequently find I need to re-read them and often find something new. I really appreciate the effort and time you take to do the research properly. Keep on doing it as long as it holds your interest.

    I’ve found the pattern reviews and linking to style types to be wondrously helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for expressing a lot of my own thoughts on this. My comment responds to both this post and your August recap post. I have a number of gripes with the Kibbe community and basically agree with you on all points.

    I’ve been keeping abreast of the changes, too. Merriam’s Kibbe more practical perspective is pretty spot on, and I like that she’s going her own way. I also think a lot of what’s on the internet for “Kibbe styling” is more into aesthetic than relying on body lines. That is where Merriam gets it right: our body lines are fundamentally more important than any intangible essence or “style.”

    I like how you’re using Kibbe’s system. I want to look good and feel good. I am more concerned about if the descriptions fit me and capture my style struggles–but I want MORE than a “good skirt, bad skirt” approach. I thought I was a SN but since then I’ve found the SD guidelines are much more accurate–the “avoids” are right, too. I’m happy now.

    Many of the Kibbe adherents subconsciously promote a certain “privilege” of being able to afford to see Kibbe in person, or to obtain his out-of-print book. I can’t afford either of those, so I’ll never find my true type. I applaud the people who have dissected his theory for all us plebs. I wish someone would make the book available as a PDF–I just want the SD chapter, for crying out loud!

    I think that Style Syntax is right that you know yourself best. I also think this is where so many Ns, Cs, and Gs feel left out in the cold. I understand why he eliminated the pure types, but also a lot of people are most comfortable with them. They know themselves best, right? I think DK has erred based on how people have felt in the wake.

    On that topic, to say that only DK can type you renders the whole system worthless. Do his words really mean something different to each person? Well, we should do away with types all together, then. I’ll be honest: I’m pretty confident in typing my friends according to his guidelines, not how they want to be perceived. That, to me, is a successful system that can continue on after the creator has left this sphere (physically or metaphorically). But if Kibbe typed me as a SG or TR, I would tell him he was wrong. If his system works, we should reach the same conclusion.

    On that note, why does he and others advise against trying on clothes of different Image IDs–a gamine top will look unflattering on me regardless of why I tried it on. I think we’ve all felt stifled in a piece that doesn’t suit us, but are those feelings invalid because somehow wearing the fricking clothes isn’t enough? Or are the clothes more than clothes? Kibbe would say yes, they are more than just clothes. I’d say that to a degree, yes, but not totally.

    And that’s where I diverge from Kibbe: I dislike incorporating personality into style. He relies too much on spiritual intuition when shirts and skirts and dresses are just clothes and either they flatter or they don’t. My essence is pretty divorced from clothing lines and style. I am also wary of DYT and Angelic/Ethereal essences for that reason.

    Okay, I’ve thrown enough salt. I don’t mean any disrespect to him as I feel he has done a lot of good for a lot of women, but my goodness… the whole community is hard to love. Please keep up the good work. I have learned a lot from your “Sew Your Kibbe” series and I have hope of making flattering clothes someday soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! It’s good to know I’m not the only one who’s a bit disenchanted with everything that’s grown out of what was essentially a useful tool. And the bit about feeling stifled in certain clothes is exactly how I realized I was SN not SC. Being “Classic” just felt so tight and constricted. And I don’t think seeing David would convince me otherwise…

      Realistically, 90% of the SD chapter is covered on my SYK page. I don’t go into the personality stuff, and the hair and makeup recommendations are in another chapter. I suppose I could write about those, as that information is a bit spottier to find on the Internet… 🤔

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You do plenty for us 🙂 I only wanted the SD chapter because the SN chapter scans are online, whereas few of the other types are (that I can find–maybe I’m not looking hard enough). But at this point, I’m aware that SYK and other type write-ups include the important stuff–so don’t worry about the extra 🙂

        Still, a PDF would go a long ways in making Kibbe’s material more accessible and remove the allure of how expensive and “exclusive” it is, but that’s a huge effort I wouldn’t expect of anyone. I’m also more inclined to trust his book than his more recent evolutions away from his own sytem that are cloaked in mystsery. He should just write another book because attitudes towards fashion have changed so much–oh, and include pictures (lol).

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I don’t think it would be appropriate to make a PDF of the entire book because of copyright issues; citing specific parts for education or discussion is covered under fair use… it’s that line in between that gets a bit… fuzzy.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m on this site through pattern review since I’m hoping to become more aware of my clothing purchases and makes. I couldn’t quite follow every thing you were telling us since it’s all new to me but I loved the history lesson!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Coming very late to this party, though I love your blog and have found it very helpful. I wanted to comment on this post because I have just started with the Kibbe FB groups, and have to agree with comments about how some of the community there are so strict and can make others feel judged and condemned if they don’t agree with everything, or don’t quite understand some point. It has improved, I think, but I still feel very wary every time I post a comment just in case I’ve violated some guideline I didn’t know existed. I found the Kibbe U exercises useful and they helped me to see my type clearly for the first time. But I’m having a lot of problems trying to work through the colour analysis exercises and individual posts. I’m on the verge of quitting because it is so hard to know exactly what they are talking about! So many rules and regulations and bans and warnings! I don’t wear much makeup, so that section is not very useful to me, but the clothing colours would be – if I could figure them out. I love the original book, and got a copy when it was still affordable, but David has changed some of the types and eliminated others – and now the SK group says your face does not matter much when figuring out your type! So it is really baffling. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks this way.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Was browsing your site after recommending it to a friend. Totally worth the read, and the belly laugh from “At this point I feel a bit like an archaeologist wading through finds at a dig site where half of the artifacts might be cursed and the other half are pricelessly valuable… ”
    I’ve pleasurably wasted quite a lot of time on both Strictly and Freely Kibbe sites, and gleaned some insights at the same time. I still feel like I don’t have a proper Kibbe “home,” but I’ve learned to see things I hadn’t seen before.

    I appreciate Kibbe’s message that we are designed properly in the first place, but his Image ID names definitely were fraught with baggage that were difficult to get past, along with his insistence about features that excluded people from image ID’s. I was technically excluded from ALL of them, LOL.

    Merriam’s clearer and more factually descriptive names for types were a great step in the direction of freedom. “The Triumph of Individual Style” as another helpful text. Merriam’s and Aly Arts visual examples were helpful as well. Posting my silhouette on a Kibbe FB page led to “I see Romantic” which I pondered, as I’m over 5’8″ tall. I’ve entertained “Dramatic with a classic essence,” “Really Tall Gamine, because of a very youthful face” and am currently playing with “Soft Dramatic with a face that Isn’t.” The Nes Kim channel on YouTube showed that not all SD’s have to look like slobs in casual active wear. Her observation that SD’s do well wearing something very fitted with something flowing rang perfectly true for me. And maybe “SD with a classic essence” might be closer to accurate. Though the Strict Kibbeites insist the face doesn’t matter, I think it does in terms of how extreme/dramatic i can go and still look harmonious, whether in the angular OR the soft direction.

    It has been an interesting ride, and your pages have been very helpful to me, so thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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